By: George Garneau
New York City was a little quieter on Friday, April 16, because the New York Post was victimized by a labor dispute and missing from newsstands.
The loudest and brashest of the city’s tabloids never came off the presses. Management called it a “job action” by the pressmen.
Pressmen’s union president John P. Kennedy accused management of failing to honor terms of the union’s contract.
Kennedy gave this account: The press crew was seven men short of the 48 needed to meet the contractual staffing requirement of 12 men per press. General manager Peter Faris ordered them to operate shy of required staffing, and when they refused he said workers called in for overtime would be paid only for hours worked, not the full shift as contractually required. When the pressmen refused, Faris ordered the paper shut down for the night, leaving the plated presses silent.
“He said if we can’t do it our way, we send them all home,” Kennedy said. “I was flabbergasted. In a paper the shape this one is in, the last thing we need is to blow another edition.”
The missed edition deprived 400,000 or so readers of their larger-than-usual 104 page fix of sex, crime, sports and sensationalism.
Faris could not be reached for comment, but a spokesman said, “The pressmen refused to operate the presses.”
The pressmen’s contract expired in 1990, but its terms remain in effect.
After meetings on Friday at which both sides agreed to a truce, publication of the Saturday paper resumed.
But Saturday at about 7 a.m. electricians reported a fire on one unit of the paper’s four eight-unit presses. The Fire Department ruled it arson.
Wiring was burned and there was water damage before the fire was subdued 7:29, but it did not prevent publication of the Monday paper.
Kennedy said the pressmen had left the building three hours before the fire and denied they were involved.
He met April 19 with representatives of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which is seeking to buy the bankrupt tabloid but is waiting for the Federal Communications Commission to waive cross-ownership rules.
There was no resolution. Talks were scheduled to resume May 5.
The FCC has asked Murdoch for more information on the price he will pay to bankrupt Post owner Peter Kalikow.
The Post failed to publish one day several weeks ago amid the chaos between rapid management changes.